Signed, But by Whom?

Sneaking up on the first anniversary of the Book Fair Blog may mean nothing much in the grand scheme of YOUR life, but to me it means I have proven I can cope with one of my dearest dreams: to inflict my opinion on willing readers. It means I can come up with mildly amusing blather about books on a regular basis. It means….

It means I can start repeating myself.

Yes, for the sake of newcomers, I may well revisit old material, bring up some new thoughts on old topics, and tell the same old jokes again. Won’t that be fun, boys and girls? Well, we’re going to do it anyhow. Old Uncle Blogsy doesn’t have to take advice from the peanut gallery.

I thought I might repeat some warnings about that autographed book you found, just offering a few tips before you plan to buy a house on the proceeds of the sale, or claim a huge deduction based on your donation to the Book Fair. (That second one WAS your first idea, right?) You need to look over the book and ask some questions.

Is this one of those dreary books with a facsimile autograph on the end sheets? The end sheets are those blank pages immediately inside the front and back covers. If you have four identical autographs, these are facsimiles: printed copies of a signature meant as decoration rather than fraud.

Is this one of those extra-dreary books where a facsimile of the author’s signature has been printed on the title page in place of the title? Barbara Bush’s autobiography is like that. Another frequent trick is to print the facsimile signature at the end of the introduction or dedication. The Memoirs of Ulysses S, Grant has caused a lot of heartache this way.

Was this book published while the author was still alive? I hate to bite a hand that feeds me, but eBay is loaded with this kind of thing. I watched in awe as someone offered a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, in English, autographed by Anne Frank. This is clearly an impossibility, but the book sold…to a Federal investigator, I hope. Yes, it IS possible to paste an earlier autograph into a later book, but if it’s written on the page with ballpoint pen five years after the author’s death…at least check and see whether the author was buried with a ballpoint pen. AND refills.

Is the author’s autograph, um, likely to be worth anything? Even an authentic autograph needs something more. Your mother’s best friend wrote a book of poetry and signed it? Not to be harsh, but if her greatest claim to fame was that she was your mother’s best friend, that book is worth exactly the same as an unsigned copy. Except maybe to you.

This last can backfire, of course. We do have a book of poetry a man inscribed to his grandmother, and which she apparently lent to a friend. The friend knew the author only as her friend’s grandson, and never knew his autograph would one day be listed online for a hundred bucks. Even a poet’s autograph is SOMETIMES worth money. 

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